As we look ahead to Saturday afternoon’s tie with NC State (6-1), one of the more notable avenues to explore is the superficial appeal of Notre Dame’s dominant rushing offense taking on State’s (seemingly) stout run defense. Notre Dame has the country’s sixth-best rushing offense with 317.86 yards per game (ypg). NC State has the country’s sixth-best run defense, allowing 91.29 ypg. Considering Josh Adams is accustomed to breaking off runs almost that long, are we really going to see Notre Dame’s well run dry? Given the games that underlie the numbers, I predict another strong performance by The Irish because State’s run defense hasn’t faced any team nearly as good.
Georgia is the only team to stifle The Irish. Against the nation’s fourth-best run defense, Notre Dame managed just 55 yards on 37 attempts. That equates to just 1.49 yards per carry (ypc). But against the nation’s eight-best run defense, Michigan State, Notre Dame ran forty times and put up 182 yards, or 4.55 ypc.
The yards came in huge chunks against the rest of the slate. In Notre Dame’s other games, B.C., Miami (OH), Temple, North Carolina, and USC, The Irish crossed the three hundred yard mark in each. Against Temple, they put up 422. And against B.C., Adams et al. ran for 515. To put that in perspective, the nation’s worst rushing offense, Western Kentucky, has managed just 567 rushing yards over seven games. Some explanation for ND’s productivity in these games can be found in the rankings of the opponent’s rushing defenses: Temple is #82, B.C. is #115, Miami (OH) is #69 (nice), N.C. is #113, and USC is #79. It should be noted that these rankings are as of October 23, 2017, so that Notre Dame’s performance against each team drags them down.
Similarly, NC State’s luster is the product of their schedule. It can be argued, and I am so arguing, that Notre Dame has performed against better defenses, while NC State has padded its stats against some pretty poor running teams. State has played seven games, just like The Irish, but one was against Furman, an FCS school. Among FBS schools, State’s toughest opponent was Louisville, with the country’s twenty-seventh-best rushing offense. Louisville ran the ball 29 times for 116 yards against NC State.
The next-best, Syracuse (#69) (nice) ran 30 times for 59 yards. Florida State (#86) ran 26 times for 104 yards. Pitt (#89) carried 32 times for 95 yards. Marshall (not the Supreme Court Justice) (#101) ran 25 times for 101 yards. Finally, South Carolina (#119) ran 21 times for 31 yards. Furman didn’t do that poorly, gashing State for 133 yards on 47 carries.
Forty-seven is the most carries State has faced so far. The Irish have run 47 times or more three times. The fewest carries for Notre Dame this season, 37, was against Georgia. NC State hasn’t faced that many runs since the Furman game. While Saturday’s weather should mitigate against fatigue, if State isn’t conditioned, The Irish could overwhelm them through sheer exhaustion. More likely, Notre Dame’s dominant offensive line and the threat of Brandon Wimbush’s arm will keep The Wolfpack’s defense honest, and scrambling to account for the ball handler.
Look for Notre Dame to once again cross the 300 yard plateau and notch another mark in the “win” column.